Over the past year, downloadable games like Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies have become household names. Children are being introduced to mobile gaming platforms at a very young age through their parents’ smartphones and tablets, and free games become a gateway to hardcore gaming in the form of MMOs. How does this translate for the gamers who still prefer platforms and gaming on their televisions? Older platforms like Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s XBox 360 have been adapted to access the internet, and gamers can pay for and download certain titles right from their living room.
A gaming client called Steam (owned by Valve) enables gamers to do the same thing from their Mac or PC, and offers frequent discounts on popular titles like Portal, Max Payne and Team Fortress. Rumors have been circulating the web about a console built specifically for use with Steam that allows gamers to play their way using any sort of controller, joystick or keyboard/mouse combo. It will act as a very small, non-Windows (or Mac, for that matter) computer dedicated to gaming and will enable console gamers to access all that Steam has to offer. This, along with instant game downloads for the XBox and Playstation, will make getting new games a breeze.
The difference is that Steam tends to discount its prices substantially from the price of a disc from, say, GameStop or WalMart. XBox Live and Playstation Network downloads tend to be sold at disc’s retail price. As far as this gamer can tell, with the rumored price of the SteamBox being quite a bit cheaper than other consoles, it will leave Microsoft and Sony in the dust unless they can lower their prices to match Steam’s. When game publishers don’t have pay to write copies of these disks or distribute them through third-party retailers, they save a bunch of money. It only makes sense, then, that they should pass on some of those savings to their customers. If it works for music, movies and even books, why shouldn’t it work for video games? I look forward to the next generation of consoles and a cheaper way of getting games without leaving home.